Terrance Gore’s 13th-inning at-bat doomed Cubs

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Without Terrance Gore, the Cubs might not have been able to make it through regulation tied. Without Terrance Gore, the Cubs might have been able to make it into the 14th inning.

Gore, who is only on the Cubs’ postseason roster for his speed, played an integral part in the Cubs’ 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday night. With the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Gore pinch-ran for Anthony Rizzo, who singled with two outs. Gore promptly stole second base, then came around to score easily on an RBI double to left-center field by Javier Báez. The Cubs might not have been able to tie the game if Rizzo had not been replaced by Gore.

In the bottom of the 13th, after the Rockies hit a trio of singles to break the 1-1 tie to take a 2-1 lead, Gore led off the inning. Gore has been in the majors for parts of five seasons, mostly as a September call-up with the Royals and Cubs. He has taken a grand total of 19 plate appearances despite appearing in 63 games. He has hit .063/.211/.063 but has stolen 27 bases in 31 attempts. Gore’s postseason numbers are even more absurd: he has appeared in eight games but taken no official plate appearances. He swiped four bags in five attempts and scored two runs.

If you’re Gore facing Scott Oberg to lead off the bottom of the 13th inning, you leave the bat on your shoulders the entire time, right? Go up with a wiffle ball bat. That’s mostly what Gore did. He worked the count to 2-2, then appeared to be nicked on his left shoulder by a 96 MPH fastball that ran a bit too far inside. The pitch was a cross-up between Oberg and catcher Tony Wolters and ended up nailing home plate umpire Chris Guccione. Gore was awarded first base, but had to come back after replay review revealed that he was not, in fact, hit by Oberg’s fastball. With a 3-2 count, the bat should never leave Gore’s shoulders. Gore swung and missed at a slider that dove low and outside of the strike zone. Oberg proceeded to strike out Báez and Albert Almora, Jr. to end the game, sending the Rockies to the NLDS.

Oberg has been excellent this year, particularly when it comes to being stingy about walks. After walking 10.4 percent of batters he faced in his first three seasons in the big leagues between 2015-17, he walked only 5.3 percent of batters faced this season. When facing a full count, Oberg threw ball four in six of 32 opportunities, or 18.75 percent. Not great odds, but better odds than Gore and his .063 batting average swinging the bat and hoping for a base hit or forcing a fielding error.

The Cubs had no position players left, so Gore was on his own. If Gore didn’t understand the situation, manager Joe Maddon and his coaching staff should have. They should have given Gore direct orders not to swing the bat.

Is it all Gore’s fault the Cubs are already eliminated from the playoffs? Of course not, as of the 50 Cubs batters who came to the plate, only 11 reached base. 10 were stranded as the club went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Rockies pitching racked up 16 strikeouts. But if Gore were to get on by drawing a walk (or being hit by a pitch), it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that he moves himself into scoring position. He might even be able to get to third base on his own, opening up the possibility for a sacrifice fly, an RBI ground out, or a chance to score on a wild pitch/passed ball. It was a pivotal moment in the game, with a leverage index of 3.53 (an average LI is 1.00). And it’s one Cubs fans will be remembering until spring training begins next year.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.